Gender Frameworks in Strategic Litigation

Using a gender framework means being attentive to women’s, men’s, boys’, and girls’ and adults or children who fall outside traditional gender roles specific needs, concerns, roles, responsibilities and identities, and the differences and inequalities therein, in all aspects of your work and behavior. These gendered risks and vulnerabilities may not be obvious, so every effort should be made to listen carefully to people’s individual needs and perspectives in order to understand them, and perceive issues that may not have occurred to you naturally, and in turn reflect these considerations in your client interaction and litigation work. Because every individual comes from particular cultural and gender backgrounds, we are unlikely to be aware of all the concerns of people different from us. This is why listening and creating a friendly, open environment in which no one is afraid to express intimate concerns is of utmost importance. Organizations have a responsibility to understand the structural roots of gender-based discrimination and violence if they are to address these issues in their work.

In all activities a gender framework must be reflected in the budgeting process – it is important to analyze your strategic litigation budget from a gender perspective, identifying the implications for women and girls compared to men and boys, and asking whether the impact of the budget would reduce, increase, or not affect gender inequality. Budgets are not neutral: the way project funds are spent can have negative impacts down the line if not considered from the outset. It may be that women’s participation in a trial flags over time, and no resources have been allocated for potential support, such as travel or surplus psychological support costs.

However, gender framed budgeting is not solely about boosting funding on women’s programs. It involves looking beyond balance sheets and working out – through consulting those affected – whether women and men fare differently under existing expenditure plans and routines, and adjusting them accordingly to meet their specific needs. Gender budgeting gives a concrete dimension to the gender implications of your project.

Gender framed budgeting is not about whether an equal amount is spent on women and men, but whether the spending is adequate to address women’s and men’s needs.

 Understanding Gender Framed Budgeting, IOM, 2008

Flexibility in programs may permit more gender-responsive service provisions, allowing for adjustments in both budgets and activities if unforeseen circumstances arise. This is key when working with young clients – girls’ and boys’ needs may change as they mature and acquire different social roles and responsibilities.

Case study

Over several months a male client was attending the office regularly in order to follow up and work on a case. The client became familiar with the activities of the organization and expressed interest in attending the women’s groups he saw taking place among other refugee clients. Surprised, his legal adviser asked him if he identified as a woman, to which the answer was yes. This brought up the issue of how to reflect this identity in other legal documents and integrate the client into a group of potentially unwelcoming refugee women clients. Only then did we realize that gender-sensitivity training should not be confined to staff, volunteers and other colleagues, but also extended to community outreach activities.